Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Trim for the Babies

I think in my last post, I said that I was hoping that these post-Olympic days would allow me to catch up a bit on the blogging and slow the pace down a bit. I should have known better and foreseen that it was going to be a rather short-lived wish. Only a couple of days later and Boo and I were off for a blur of a weekend.

It was time for the Spring Pruning party at Red Rooster Winery. This is one of the two event-laden weekends that the winery promotes as part of its unique "Adopt-a-Row" program. I've talked about Adopt-A-Row before - particularly last Fall when Tyrant, Taylor and I made it up for the Harvest party - but this is the first time that Boo was actually able to fit the weekend into his work schedule.

It was tougher than I thought to get away from the work desk Friday afternoon, but we managed to make it through the Hope-Princeton passes - despite the out-of-the-blue snow warnings - to arrive in the Okanagan and the Naramata Bench in time for a Friday night reception. The evening featured an opportunity to taste all of the new wines that were going to be available in the upcoming Spring release; however, not all that many people were in attendance. I think the weather may have deterred a lot of the other "adoptive parents" from making the early arrival. That just meant that - for a couple of hungry boys - there were plenty of appetizers to go with the dozen-plus new wines being poured.

It was an early evening for us though. We still needed to check into our digs for the weekend. Our last couple of visits to Naramata have been with groups of friends and we'd arranged to rent houses. With this visit being just Boo and I, I thought I'd surprise him with a stay at the Naramata Heritage Inn. The Inn has always intrigued me and this would be a great chance to try it out. Good thing it was cozy and quiet because we pretty much hit the sack immediately to get in a good sleep before tomorrow's day in the vineyard.

At the reception, we'd heard stories about how miserable the last couple of days had been in the vineyards and how the wind had been so strong, at times, that it had forced some working crews to move to more protected locations. Not the kind of weather forecast a bunch of rookie, tourist field hands want to hear. But the morning turned out to be very agreeable. While Boo slept in, I even got the chance to have a first cup of coffee and read a bit in a morning sun on the balcony.

On the couple of occasions that I've been able to make the adoptive parents weekends, the winery has started the day off with a discussion about working the vineyards, in general, and about pruning the vines specifically. That was no different today - although this time there was also an expanded presentation about the steps and (perhaps more importantly) the costs behind starting up a winery. Not that Boo or I had ever harboured thoughts of starting a winery before, but I left that discussion thinking that I'm more than content helping tend our one adoptive row with my one or two days a year. Wine may equal glamour on the table, but it's work and more work to get it there.

I'm guessing that there might have been a hundred or so adoptive parents at the pruning party and, if I say so myself, we made pretty good progress on finishing off the Malbec vines that are our adoptive "babies." It was hardly a daunting task and we were probably done in an hour or so.

An hour or two working in the Spring sun. Hey, sign me up. Days on end - in far less hospitable weather? Not so sure.

Once the pruning was completed, everyone moved to the winery where winemaker, Karen Gillis, entertained us with a discussion about the art of blending wines. She then offered each of the tables a hands-on opportunity to experiment with the creation of their own GSM blend, using the Rhone varietals Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. This was great fun as each table swore they had discovered that perfect blend - something that would rocket to the top of Wine Spectator's "Best of" lists.

I particularly enjoyed the activity as the Rhone varietals are a favourite of mine. But not only that, I couldn't recall ever having run across BC grown Grenache or Mourvedre. We see lots of Syrah (Shiraz) from the Southern Okanagan, but I hadn't run across any wine that had boasted any "G" or "M" to create a Rhone blend. Karen confirmed that there was very little of the two varietals available but that some growers were making an attempt - if a somewhat experimental attempt - to grow them.

Perhaps, if Boo's and my table did discover that extraordinary blend, we could use the name thrown out there by my sister - Chateauneuf-du-Poof.

Our blending exercise was followed by a catered lunch and even more wine tasting. Not bad for an hour or so's work.

There were a number of the new releases that Boo and I thoroughly enjoyed and he loosened the "No Buy Leash" just enough for me to pick up a case. We took a particular shine to the new Rose and it will be the first of the new releases to make The List as it was the only bottle that we took back to the Inn with us for immediate enjoyment.

392. 2008 Red Rooster Rose (VQA Okanagan Valley)

A touch on the off-dry side, I can see this as being a wonderful afternoon sipper during the upcoming summer. Interestingly enough, it's a 100% Cabernet Franc. I say "interesting" because Red Rooster doesn't offer a straight varietal Cab Franc wine. Thus far, they've only used it for blending. Same story that we saw with Jackson-Triggs and their Rose last year.

I don't know if Cab Franc Rose is becoming a trend for the Okanagan, but I like it. A lot. Despite some residual sugar in this wine, there was still plenty of acidity and fruit to match wonderfully with all sorts of light summer meals - be they salads, pastas or picnics of cheeses and sliced meats. Something to look forward to.

After the Red Rooster event ended, Boo and I had hoped to take in a couple of other wineries - especially since my leash had been loosened a bit. Unfortunately, it was still too early in the season and the neighbouring wineries just weren't open yet.

We still had one more opportunity to make the best of our adoptive parent role. We were lucky enough to get a reservation for the Winemaker's Dinner being held that night in the winery's art gallery on the second floor of the spacious tasting room building. We get the opportunity to attend winemaker dinners in Vancouver at different restaurants, but this was the first chance we'd had to enjoy such an occasion at the actual winery.

Red Rooster doesn't have a restaurant forming part of the winery. So, they had it catered by one of the valley's foremost chefs. It has to be tough creating a big dinner with no kitchen but I have no doubts that the menu - that included scallops, duck salad and beef - was thoroughly enjoyed by the fortunate attendees. The fact that we had the opportunity to try another eight wines - in their best setting, with food - and hear why the winery matched them to particular dishes is as good as dining out gets.

Despite the fact that we knew virtually no one at the dinner, there was a personal and festive atmosphere. The stories recounted by Karen, winery manager Blair and Rochelle ("retiring" coordinator of our motley crew of adoptive parents) were full of laughs, wit and insight into the wine business (and personal Olympic beers).

I certainly hope that Boo and I will be able to attend the Fall Harvest party. Hopefully, our pruning job of our row won't have killed all our vines.

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